We Are All Treaty People

December 8, 2016 | Melanie

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Two Row Wampum Treaty
A 13-year-old boy reads an English version of the Guswenta, also known as the Two-Row Wampum Treaty. Sourced from the Virtual Reference Library.

The release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action (PDF) has spurred a lot introspection, both at the individual and collective levels, about what it means to be "Canadian." The importance of Treaties is highlighted in several Calls to Action, but the ninety-fourth Call to Action explicitly calls upon Canadian citizens to "...faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples..."

Residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women, housing, water, pipelines, youth suicide -- these aren't just indigenous issues. If you are Canadian, you are a treaty person. These are your issues too.

For too long, Canadians have seen themselves as separate from indigenous communities. Issues plaguing First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, especially those in remote communities, were placed on the back burner -- by governments and institutions, by media and by everyday Canadians.


Treaty of Niagara Wampum 1764
The Treaty of Niagara Covenant Chain Wampum Belt of 1764, an agreement between the Crown and twenty-four Indigenous Nations, including the Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas, was one of the foundational treaties signed by what is now Canada. This Treaty established the relationship between settlers of the Crown and Indigenous Nations, and still holds relevance today as a fitting symbol for the journey to Reconciliation. Sourced from Anishinabek News.

But things (hopefully) are changing. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action lay out very real and concrete ways that governments and institutions at all levels can redress some of the gaps and inequities between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.

One of the first things Canadians can do at the individual level is learn about what it means to be a Treaty person. The library is a great place to start.

Here are some recommended reads for every Treaty person:

We Are All Treaty People      Nation to Nation     In This Together

Children of the Broken Treaty     From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation     Idle No More and the Remaking of Canada     Indigenous Nationhood    Unsettling the Settler Within    

There are several other resources available through the Toronto Public Library that can help you on your own personal journey to reconciliation:

The Native Peoples Collection

The Native Peoples Collection is a collection of adult, teen and children's books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and newspapers by and about indigenous peoples from Turtle Island (North America). The collection is a result of a partnership between Toronto Public Library and the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in 1977, when the first public library dedicated to serving the indigenous community in Toronto opened at 10 Spadina Road. Today, the collection at the Spadina Road Branch houses over 5,000 materials on a wide range of indigenous topics written and published by indigenous and non-indigenous peoples from a variety of nations. The Society and Recreation Department at the North York Central Library also houses a Native Peoples Collection, with a selection of adult fiction and non-fiction materials in print, CD and DVD format.

Native Languages of the Americas Collection

The Native Languages of the Americas Collection is located in the Languages and Literature Department of the Toronto Reference Library. There are over 40 indigenous languages represented in this collection, including Algonquian, Cree, Mohawk, Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) and Oneida.

The Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre

Toronto PurchaseThe Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, located on the fifth floor of the Toronto Reference Library, contains a wealth of historical materials relating to indigenous peoples during the early contact period with the French and the British. Some of the highlights from these collections include Eusebius' Chronicon, from 1512, which contains the first printed reference to indigenous peoples in what is now Canada; Samuel de Champlain's Voyages et découvertes, from 1620, an important historical document chronicling the time Champlain spent with the Huron and his encounters with  indigenous communities along the St. Lawrence Valley; and Frederic Baraga's 1853 A dictionary of the Otchipwe language, an Ojibwe language dictionary. While you're at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, don't forget to check out the Baldwin Collection of Canadian Manuscripts, which includes the Mississauga-French Dictionary by Quetton de St. George, a French Royalist who emigrated to Upper Canada in 1798 and traded with the Mississauga people in the Toronto region; and the S. P. (Samuel Peters) Jarvis Papers, consisting of documents, treaties and correspondences relating to indigenous affairs from 1763-1853, as well as accounts and trustees of the Six Nations, from 1830 to 1839.

Virtual Reference Library

The Virtual Reference Library features digital content from a variety of online library sources, including Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive, YouTube channel and librarian blog posts. Here, you'll find a plethora of resources related to local indigenous history, including an image from a 1911 map depicting the 1787-1805 plan of the Toronto Purchase from the Mississaugas of New Credit (pictured above, to the right), as well as photographs from indigenous communities around Ontario and throughout Turtle Island (North America), including Six Nations, Muskrat Dam First Nation, Akwesasne and First Nations on Manitoulin Island.

Start with these resources and you'll be well on your way on your own journey of reconciliation.


Edited March 11, 2019 to update the link for the 94 Calls to Action. All reports can be found on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation webpage.